CAMPAIGN: National Geographic Kids is a global hit

Last year, Attic Media (a company that publishes magazines on a range of subjects, including football) gained the rights to publish a junior version of National Geographic magazine.

Client Attic Media
PR team Mischief PR
Timescale October-December 2006
Budget £20,000

National Geographic Kids contains entertaining and educational news and features designed to appeal to six to 14-year-olds. It used Mischief PR for a campaign around the launch issue on 25 October 2006.

To achieve the most successful magazine launch for Attic Media in a decade. To raise awareness of the magazine and drive sales.

Strategy and Plan
Although children were the target audience, Mischief devised a campaign that would appeal to parents and teachers – the actual likely buyers of the magazine. The team wanted to create a news story that would highlight kids’ lack of geographical knowledge, positioning National Geographic Kids as the solution.

The team commissioned research which discovered that one in five UK children could not find their country on a world map. It then hired environmentalist David Bellamy to front the launch – not only because of his expert knowledge, but also because his larger-than-life personality would appeal to parents who had grown up watching him on TV.

Pre-launch, Mischief targeted nat­ional and regional journalists – particularly those working in the areas of environment and education – with a teaser press pack. It contained a National Geographic Kids-branded bonsai tree, tagged with the launch date. Two days later, it sent a press release with details of the research.

A picture of Bellamy reading the new magazine to excited school­children was sent to picture desks. Mischief then media-trained the environmentalist to ensure he mentioned the magazine during broadcast interviews.

Later, it liaised with The Sun for a double-page feature on the nation’s geographical knowledge.

Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign generated 154 items of coverage, including a front page in The Sunday Telegraph, as well as articles in The Sun, Daily Express, Daily Mirror and Independent on Sunday. Regional press coverage included The Yorkshire Post, Western Mail and London’s Evening Standard.

Broadcast highlights included an item on BBC Breakfast, a 20-minute feature on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show, and mentions on BBC Radio Five Live and LBC News.

The launch issue of National Geographic Kids was a sellout (130,000 copies), making it the biggest-selling new magazine in Attic’s history. It also picked up more than 11,000 subscribers and, to date, its worldwide circulation of 1,677,500 makes National Geographic Kids the world’s most popular magazine for six to 14-year-olds.

The research into children’s grasp of geography was mentioned in a parliamentary debate. The Department for Education and Skills is now liaising with the magazine on its ‘learning outside the classroom’ initiative – which gives kids the chance to go on international field trips.

The Sunday Telegraph education correspondent Julie Henry says: ‘The campaign highlighted the state of teaching – very suited to our paper.’


Alan Whelan (pictured)
is managing director of Inkwell PR, which specialises in customer magazines and company newsletters:

Despite the difficulties of launching a publication these days, the timing here was perfect for a magazine of this type.

Mischief PR had a great brand name to back up this launch, of course. National Geographic is a byword for quality journalism with a consistent readership.

Targeting parents and teachers was a smart move, and exposing kids’ lack of geographical know­ledge positioned the magazine, at least in part, as an educational tool.

My guess is that most journalists wouldn’t have desk space for even a bonsai tree, and that most ended up being given away as gifts, so I’m not sure what that achieved. I also find the idea of media-training an old pro such as Dr David Bellamy OBE somewhat amusing – I guess it was to make sure he remem­ber­ed to mention the magazine.

But the proof of this campaign comes in two forms: establishing the profile of National Geographic Kids, and generating sales. The achievement of 154 news items in three months is impressive (I particularly liked The Sun feature, although coverage would have been more valuable in a middle-market publication). It was also good that the broadcast pieces included the key outlets of The Jeremy Vine Show and Breakfast.

A sellout of 130,000 copies for the first issue, and 11,000 subscri­bers, was a very good start. However, I would like to know how sales have fared since.

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